It was doubly sad for me hearing of the death of Rebecca Marie Jung last week. This dancer, athlete, teacher and friend died of complications from cancer Sept. 6.
Rebecca, or “Becky,” as she preferred to be called, had many ties to Howard County and the entire Baltimore dance community. I always expected to enjoy her dance performances on professional stages for many years to come.
You could always recognize Becky on a crowded stage. She was the one with hair “down to there,” as the saying goes. Sometimes fellow dancers would grab hold and cling to it in certain routines. Plus, she always had a smile that could light up a stage.
As an undergraduate, Becky was an active member of the Baltimore dance community. She trained with Liz Walton, and performed with the Phoenix Repertory Company, Naked Feet and the Forrest Collection, among other local troupes.
After graduating from UMBC in 1987, Becky toured internationally for seven years with Pilobolus Dance Theatre, but she always continued to return to her alma mater to teach master classes.
The pretty brunette performed with the “Pils” in Europe, Russia, South America, Hong Kong, Japan, as well as throughout the United States, including at the Columbia Festival of the Arts in 1995.
Dance Magazine once reported that Jung was working with the Pilobolus Institute on an educational outreach program started in the 1990s. Her last performance as a member of that troupe was in July 1997 at the Wolf Trap Performing Arts Park.
A benefit to celebrate the life of Becky Jung will take place at The Box during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Lincoln Center on Wednesday, Sept. 14, from 9 to 11 p.m. So far, the program includes Pilobolus, 360 Dance Company, Christopher Morgan and Becky’s Hula Sisters and Brothers.
For information or to be added to the invitation list, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. All donations will go to assisting the family in the medical costs run up during her difficult final months. Local dancers are also organizing a memorial fund for dancers in Becky’s name. Check back here for details as they become available.
Dance remains a “stepchild of the arts,” as I heard it described years ago at a critics conference in New York City. Working dancers receive the lowest salaries and the least benefits as companies struggle to stretch their seasons out to the 28 weeks required by the unions.
Despite their dedication, dancers are not well recognized for their rigorous training and the athletic regimens they keep up between engagements. They’re not as often celebrated as other performing artists. For instance, there are no dancers among the 2011 Kennedy Center Honorees, and only one dancer in Howard County — ballerina superstar Alicia Graf— has taken the coveted first prize in the annual “Rising Stars” talent competition sponsored by the Howard County Arts Council.
Sadly, fewer dancers, especially ballerinas, are now turning out to audition for that council’s professional development award. It’s tough to pull off a perfect “Don Q” variation with multiple turns on pointe in 90 seconds, sometimes early on a wintry day.
With the final deadline of Nov. 1 looming for the 2012 auditions, perhaps this blog will encourage more dancers to give it a try...again. Those who apply by Oct. 1 do not have to pay a fee. Applications submitted between Oct. 2 and Nov. 1 carry a $10 application fee.
Dance was sadly missed at this past summer’s Columbia Festival of the Arts. Organizers pointed to the “cost of a production,” but there’s no doubt that dance has also been one of the most crowd-pleasing attractions offered at past festivals.
And what’s sad is that there’s little doubt that some up-and-coming dance troupe would have been thrilled to cut its overhead just for the chance to perform for an appreciative audience. All that was missing was the vision needed to make it happen.